Developing Resourceful Humans: Opportunities and Challenges in Social Media
By Brinley N. Platts
The impact of consumerization and social media is everywhere. Both the business and popular press are filled with technology stories: the role of Facebook and Twitter in catalyzing the Arab uprisings across North Africa, the launch of the iPad 2, the intriguing Nokia-Microsoft partnership, and much more.
Inside the corporation things are on the move, too. Effects are evident throughout the workplace but many companies are unsure of how to respond. There are obvious risks to security and confidentiality, but there is also the potential for deeper employee engagement, significant productivity growth, more effective marketplace interaction and increased innovation.
Our Leading Edge Forum research has looked carefully at what is happening from the point of view of human development and resourcefulness, using the NeuroLogical Levels model of Robert Dilts to investigate the changes brought about by our growing use of social technologies. Much of our report is structured around the Dilts levels (see below).
Dilts mapped the self-structure of human beings in a six-level ‘stack’. An effective and powerful person tends to be clear and coherent at every level and congruent between the levels. Such a person is resourceful, robust, directed and motivated to engage. Each of these layers is affected by social media in interesting and unexpected ways.
The case for caution
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There are many who challenge the enthusiasm of social technology proponents, and there have been many reasoned attacks on various aspects of it. Consumer technology is held to be just too distracting for use at work, and many of us feel we already have too many communications technology options to keep up with.
Information on the web can be unfair and misleading, yet sometimes impossible to change. The loss of privacy is unprecedented, and high levels of transparency can be counterproductive. Most of all, though there are many positive stories, the overall business value has yet to be decisively proved.
These criticisms cannot be ignored, but similar concerns have been raised at almost every stage of the IT industry journey. We are clearly in the mass-market phase of social media, a phase from which no information technology has ever turned back. Those who resist adoption may reduce their short-term risks, but will likely find themselves on the wrong side of history, which can be the biggest risk of all. The LEF is offering an online self-assessment tool to help people apply the Dilts model to their personal development plan.
Corporate views and initiatives
Our interviews found a reasonably strong consensus on the inevitability of the online world. The genie is out of the bottle; we live in a post-industrial paradigm and we are not going back. People are the differentiating source of value in any organization so we have to be prepared to consider anything that can improve their performance and accelerate value creation.
In many organizations there is a tacit understanding that the user base is split: some people are highly enthusiastic about their smart phones and online networks, while others are not and might become hostile if things are moved along too quickly. For this reason, people who are enthusiastic about the potential of consumer technology and find ways to exploit it should be supported, by setting up experiments in new ways of working that people can opt in to, and making them visible to others.
Experiments that flourish will spread more widely as others join in, while anything that fails to grow can be allowed to wither. Some companies are much more active in these areas than others.
The speed with which social media are spreading has taken most people by surprise. This has been compounded by traditional communication problems between IT and other parts of the business. The limited remit of HR has also wrong-footed many companies. Engaging fully requires leadership, removal of organizational barriers, changing restrictive corporate policies, a new culture of proactivity, focus, and time to deal with all the questions raised.
We believe that at a company, department and individual level, the Dilts framework provides a powerful tool for assessing both the current situation and the path to a more connected future. We urge LEF clients to read the complete report and begin applying these ideas, so that their workplace and workforce can be as human and resourceful as possible.
Brinley N. Platts is a research associate with CSC’s Leading Edge Forum Executive Programme.